Mosaica Will Appeal Charter School Rulings A Change Of Heart By Two School Boards Would Be Better, The Company Said.

Posted: April 06, 1999

The West Chester Area school board rejected a proposal for a Mosaica charter school.

The Phoenixville Area school board did the same.

Still, officials of Mosaica Education Inc. are optimistic about reversing the decisions and opening both schools in the fall.

And they say they are prepared to appeal to a soon-to-be-appointed state board if necessary.

``[Our] preference would be to have the [school] boards reverse their decisions so that we could proceed as soon as possible,'' said Michael DiRaimo, director of Mosaica's partnership operations for Pennsylvania. ``But if worst comes to worst, even if we have to rely on an appeals board ruling, we think we could be up and running in both Phoenixville and West Chester this fall.''

In the West Chester case, where the board voted, 7-1, against the charter school in February, Mosaica plans to appeal directly to the state.

But the state Charter Schools Appeals Board's members have not been appointed yet and the board will not begin hearing cases until July 1 - about two months before schools open.

DiRaimo said time pressure would not be a problem because Mosaica would use the former Bishop Shanahan High School site in West Chester, which could be ready for use in less than six weeks.

West Chester School Board Vice President June Cardosi said the board was awaiting Mosaica's next move.

``At this point, no further discussion has taken place on Mosaica,'' said Cardosi, the only board member who voted for the charter. ``We'll play it by ear, depending on what Mosaica does.''

In Phoenixville, where the vote was 5-4, Mosaica president Mike Connelly said the company would appeal to the school board.

``One of the advantages of going back to the school district with an appeal is that if they accept it, it gives everybody enough time for planning - in terms of the effects the charter will have on the individual district and on the charter school,'' Connelly said.

Mosaica is negotiating for a site in Phoenixville. Board members said the lack of a site was one reason they opposed the charter. Once a site is secured, DiRaimo said, he hoped the board would pass the proposal.

Mosaica would have to submit a revised application before the board could vote again. The other main issues the board wants addressed are a detailed description of a staff development program and evidence of sustainable public support, Phoenixville School Board President Scott Summers said.

``They've said they want to coordinate their efforts with the school district. But if they go through the state appeals, they've indicated that it will be on their terms - we won't have any say anymore,'' Summers said.

Mosaica also plans to appeal to the state and perhaps to the school board in the Council Rock district in Bucks County, which voted down the proposed Legacy Charter School proposal by a 5-3 vote in March. Mosaica still has not leased a facility for the school, so the appeal will likely be for a school to open in the fall of 2000, DiRaimo said.

Mosaica has two schools in operation - one in Saginaw, Mich., and the other in Bensalem, Bucks County. The California company has received approval for six schools to open in September - one in New Jersey and five in Michigan.

In Pennsylvania, Mosaica has 60 days from the time each proposal was voted down to collect signatures on petitions and submit them to the county Court of Common Pleas. Mosaica already has the 1,000 signatures necessary in West Chester and the 500 needed in Phoenixville to appeal, DiRaimo said. State law requires signatures by 2 percent of the district's adult population or 1,000 signatures, whichever is lower.

Once the signatures have been collected, Mosaica can appeal to the school district and the Charter School Appeals Board.

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